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Wallace v. City of Jackson

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

November 29, 2018

TINA L. WALLACE PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF JACKSON AND CHIEF LEE VANCE, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DANIEL P. JORDAN. III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The City of Jackson, Mississippi, and Chief Lee Vance seek summary judgment on the employment-discrimination claims of Tina Wallace, who served as Deputy Chief of Patrol Operations at the Jackson Police Department (“JPD”). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Wallace, an African-American female, was removed from her position as Deputy Chief in 2015, following an investigation by JPD's Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”). JPD accused Wallace of pressuring a subordinate, Lieutenant Jessie Robinson, to hire certain JPD officers to work special events. Robinson said Wallace “told him to put certain people on the list, ” and Wallace denied doing so. IAD Finding [22-2]. As part of the investigation, JPD subjected both Wallace and Robinson to polygraph examinations. Polygraph Rep. [17-3]. The findings suggested Robinson was being truthful and Wallace was not. Id. Chief Vance responded by reassigning Wallace to a Lieutenant position. Vance Letter [17-4].

         Wallace, believing the reassignment was actually a demotion motived by her race and gender, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). After receiving notice of her right to sue, she filed the instant lawsuit against the City of Jackson and Chief Vance in his individual capacity. She asserts claims of race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation, invoking Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Equal Protection clause. Defendants moved for summary judgment as to all claims, and Wallace responded in opposition. The Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute and is prepared to rule.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist, the court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

         III. Analysis

         In her Complaint, Wallace advances claims of race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation against the City of Jackson and Chief Vance in his individual capacity. Am. Compl. [11] at 1. The Court will address the retaliation and discrimination claims in turn, as well as the concepts of municipal liability and qualified immunity.

         A. Retaliation

         Wallace says Defendants demoted her “in retaliation for reporting misconduct by African-American male police officers” and “for reporting that an African-American male police officer allegedly assaulted a female JPD employee in her home.” Am. Compl. [11] at 12. But Defendants did not address retaliation in their motion for summary judgment. When Wallace pointed this out in her response, Defendants argued in reply that she cannot make out a prima facie case. Resp. [23] at 1 n.1; Reply [24] at 7-8. But the Court will not consider arguments raised for the first time in reply. See Gillaspy v. Dall. Indep. Sch. Dist., 278 Fed.Appx. 307, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (“It is the practice of . . . the district courts to refuse to consider arguments raised for the first time in reply briefs.” (citation omitted)). As a result, Wallace's retaliation claim will proceed to trial, with one qualifier. The Court notes that Wallace can assert a retaliation claim only under Title VII; “the Equal Protection Clause does not preclude workplace retaliation.” Robinson v. Jackson Pub. Sch. Dist., No. 3:08-CV-135-DPJ-FKB, 2011 WL 198127, at *5 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 20, 2011) (collecting cases).

         B. Race and Sex Discrimination

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). And “when section 1983 is used as a parallel remedy with Title VII in a racial discrimination suit the elements ...


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